French farmers staged a protest during Stage 16 of the Tour de France this morning, reportedly over reduced funding from the European Union. About 29 kilometers into the stage at Carcassonne, in the south of France, they tossed hay bales onto the road and brought the race to a halt for 15 minutes. Police subdued protestors with tear gas and pepper spray, though they miscalculated the way that wind works on aerosols, and they wound up accidentally dousing the peloton. Nice going.
Chris Froome, yellow jersey–haver Geraint Thomas, and Peter Sagan were among those who required treatment from the medical car. Nobody was seriously injured in the clash, though many riders had to wash their eyes out before riding the next 190 kilometers of the stage.
This is far from the first outside incident at this year’s Tour, as Froome has been targeted by French fans on a few climbs this year. Vincenzo Nibali was also knocked out of the race with a fractured vertebrae after falling because of a fan’s flare, and the Tour announced that flares are now banned, with a possible penalty of up to one year in jail. Let us hope that the days of fans scattering tacks on climbs are also behind us. Stage 17, which runs tomorrow, should be the most crucial stage of the race, as well as the one with the wildest fans. It’ll be nutty, and hopefully no more riders get hurt.